Objective: The lusorian artery is a rare anomaly of the right subclavian artery. This artery arises from the aortic arch distal of the left subclavian artery, crossing the midline behind the esophagus. Normally this anomaly causes no symptoms. Sometimes dysphagia first appears above the age of 40 yr.
Methods: In the period of 1992-1997, the diagnosis of an aberrant right subclavian artery was made in five patients with dysphagia who were referred to a small community hospital. A sixth patient had a right-sided aorta with an aberrant left subclavian artery.
Results: Endoscopy revealed a pulsating impression in the esophagus of three patients. Four patients had coexisting esophageal abnormalities. Barium contrast examination of the esophagus showed a characteristic diagonal impression at the level of the fourth thoracic vertebra in all patients. Computed tomography and angiography confirmed the diagnosis and excluded aneurysms. Manometric investigation of the esophagus revealed nonspecific abnormalities in five patients. Drug treatment was sufficient in three patients (mean follow-up, 6.2 yr). Three patients were operated upon because of persistent dysphagia. Through a cervical approach the artery was ligated near its root and connected with the right carotid artery. Postoperatively two patients became symptom-free, the other patient still has intermittent dysphagia.
Conclusion: Dysphagia can be caused by a rare anomaly of the subclavian artery. The diagnosis can be overlooked at endoscopy, but barium contrast study of the esophagus will reveal the abnormality. In patients with coexisting esophageal abnormalities the finding may be incidental and specific conservative treatment may be sufficient. Manometry cannot be used to diagnose this condition or to predict surgical outcome. When the symptoms are intractable, surgical correction should be considered even if coexisting esophageal abnormalities are present.